Reader's theater is a great way to add social-emotional learning to your curriculum without excessive teacher preparation and lesson planning. It's a fun and engaging way for students of all reading levels to participate in the same enrichment program while building confidence and self-esteem. Reader's theater also strengthens social bonds between classmates and between students and teachers. So, if you're looking for a way to make your classroom more dynamic and socially emotionally rich, reader's theater is the answer!
What Is Reader's Theater?
Reader's Theater is a performative approach to reading that has been gaining popularity in recent years. It involves students working together to dramatize a text, and it can be used with any type of literature- from short stories to Shakespeare. However, the best Reader's Theater scripts are intentionally created with different reading levels in mind and color-coded dialogue for best retention. This way, readers of all abilities can participate equally and read at a level that is challenging but not frustrating.
The Importance of Social Emotional Learning
Social-emotional learning, or SEL, is a critical aspect of child development. Learners must be able to understand and manage emotions to build healthy relationships with others and themselves. As the world becomes more interconnected through technology, children need social skills now more than ever before. Social-emotional learning teaches them to recognize their own emotions as well as the emotions of others. This is a crucial skill in building relationships and understanding what drives their peers, teachers, and family members to behave in certain ways.
Social-emotional learning has been linked with academic improvement. Students who have strong self-esteem are more likely to succeed academically. They feel comfortable asking for help and are more likely to take on challenging tasks.
Reader's Theater is a great way to add social-emotional learning (SEL) to your curriculum. SEL is the process of developing and using emotions, relationships, and cognitive skills to achieve personal and academic goals. When students participate in reader's theater, they learn how to work together as a team, develop friendships, build self-esteem, and improve their reading fluency.
Reader's Theater is social by nature. Students take turns reading and reciting the lines of a story, practicing social skills like taking social cues from others, being expressive by following dialogue cues, active listening, and paying attention to the person speaking. Furthermore, Reader's Theater scripts give students more vocabulary to be able to recognize and describe emotions. This is where italicized cue text to help readers accurately express the tone and emotions of the characters is essential. Reader's theater can also be utilized as a more approachable way to put on a play, without memorizing scripts. With this option, they learn how to be accepting of their peers' differences by working with them directly "on stage". Students also get to see what it feels like for an audience member to watch them perform- which can help build self-esteem and confidence when they realize that others are enjoying their performance! The social aspect of Reader's Theater comes naturally because students are used to interacting this way throughout their daily lives--they don't even have time to think about what they're doing because they're having so much fun playing different roles.
Build Self-Esteem and Cooperation
Reader's Theater helps shy students become more outgoing. It also gives shy students a chance to be the center of attention in a positive way. This builds self-esteem and confidence. Reader's Theater is great for building social skills because it provides a safe place for kids to take risks. They can experiment with new roles and characters without feeling embarrassed. This helps them learn how to communicate better with others. Reader's Theater also allows students to work together as a team. They have to cooperate and collaborate in order to be successful. This teaches them how to work together and get along with others.
Improve Reading Fluency
What's most known about Reader's Theater is how it's a great way for kids to improve their reading skills. It helps them become more fluent and confident readers. This is because Reader's Theater uses drama and expression to teach reading literacy. One of the best ways to improve fluency and, therefore, comprehension is through “Repeated Guided Oral Reading”. The National Reading Panel research found that “guided repeated oral reading procedures that included guidance from teachers, peers, or parents had a significant and positive impact on word recognition, fluency, and comprehension across a range of grade levels. Did you know that expression is the biggest building block of reading fluency? What better way to teach expressive reading than through theater? But without all the preparation and extra work of putting on a play!
Meet Students Where They're At
Reader's Theater also meets students of different reading levels where they're at. So, no matter what your student's reading level is, they can still participate in Reader's Theater and benefit from it. Often, our most struggling readers are our biggest stars in Reader's Theater! This is because Reader's Theater helps them build confidence and feel successful. They no longer feel like they're struggling when it comes to reading. Learning through the arts can even help students overcome the obstacles of disadvantaged backgrounds. Reader’s Theater gives ALL students the opportunity to be creative which keeps them engaged for the entire reading activity. Putting on a theatrical play can be a tremendous amount of work and preparation that typically only provides a spotlight for a handful of kids. Conversely, Reader’s Theater provides a balanced platform for ALL students to shine with balanced roles being read and re-read in small non-threatening groups. Drama sometimes gets neglected in the literature curriculum, yet it offers an abundance of opportunities for improved learning. Plays inherently come with built-in strategies to help students read better. Dramatic text offers opportunities for creativity and expression. Acting out a story dialogue, even in a simple reading form, compels readers to work more closely with the text to interpret and project meaning into the shared reading experience. For these same reasons, Playbooks® also present enhanced opportunities for learning English as a second language (ESL/ELD). Role-play reading in a supportive environment also helps to build confidence and self-esteem in children, strengthens oral communications skills in students of all reading levels, and helps to strengthen social bonds of a group. When children can read with success in front of their peers, their confidence and enthusiasm soar, and their reading and communication skills grow rapidly.
Teach a Love of Reading
Lastly, teach a love of reading with Reader's Theater. This can be the elusive aspect of creating a successful reading enrichment program. However, with Reader's Theater, it's easy! Reader's Theater is an innovative methodology not just in how it teaches reading fluency but how it teaches a love of reading. That's because performing Reader's Theater is fun and engaging for students! They get to use their imaginations, work together in groups, and perform for an audience. So if you're looking for a fun way to teach reading fluency and promote a love of reading, consider using Reader's Theater in your classroom!